The Last of Us: Left Behind Review: Tender Yet Aggressive
It has almost been a year since the twisted, yet beautiful tale of The Last of Us was released. And in that time I’ve grown fonder and fonder of the game. Replaying the story can start to get boring at a certain point, and multiplayer suffers from this as well. For a time I thought Naughty Dog had abandoned what is, in my opinion, their newest and best IP in their quest to design a new one for next-gen. When the game’s first and last piece of DLC was revealed, I got giddy. With Left Behind clocking in at over 3-4 hours, was Naughty Dog able to grasp fire yet again and illuminate our eyes on what true story telling is?
Left Behind tells the tale of Ellie and her friend Riley, as well as fleshing out some extra plot from the final act. Throughout the short experience we learn more about Ellie’s past before she met Joel. And of course we learn more about her mystery best friend Riley, and what happened to the two. I was so immersed for the entirety of Left Behind that I smiled, laughed, jumped back a few times from surprise infected, and felt melancholy at the end.
Left Behind’s story is told through shifting view points. One moment you’re scurrying along in the main plot in the ‘present’, and then you’re thrown back into Ellie’s past. Gameplay is exactly the same as it was in The Last of Us. You still fight,sneak,shoot,craft,interact,see, and communicate in third person. Left Behind doesn’t build upon existing mechanics, for anyone hoping Naughty Dog made some adjustments,or introduced something new.
But why change any of the previous gameplay mechanics? The mechanics of The Last of Us was designed perfectly for acting out the story. The gameplay is what leads The Last of Us, and Left Behind, from behind. It holds the hand of the narrative rather than pull it along. Naughty Dog found a successful combination that blends story and gameplay. To name either one as the star of the show, would only take away from the whole experience.
But, be that as it may, what I love most about Left Behind, is that Naughty Dog made the friendship between Ellie and Riley look and feel believable. Through moments of genuine humor, sadness, happiness, and grief; they truly captured the essence of friendship in a completely f#%#ed up world . Even something as simple as a brick throwing game between Ellie and Riley became a cherished adventure because of the way that Naughty Dog played out the narrative. The pacing of Left Behind has a tender yet aggressive progression that made the chemistry between Ellie and Riley feel natural and not rushed.
The several hours of immersive gameplay is by no means a flaw in Left Behind, I’m just being greedy. Getting more playtime as Ellie as well a learning about her character is something I’ve always been interested in. It is something I wish I had more time to play around with. Maybe the Dogs will release more Ellie themed DLC in the future. And even if they don’t, that wont stop me from loving the entirety of The Last of Us experience.
Naughty Dog was able to develop a brief yet powerful experience in those few hours that some games aren’t able to do in over 20 hours. An immersive experience that displayed a wide array of emotions I thought couldn’t be captured in a video game. Left Behind not only stands on its own two feet, but it also picks up the main plot on its four shoulders and helps carry it to the finish line. If you haven’t picked up The Last of Us yet, now is the time to lose yourself in the haunting tale of Naughty Dog’s masterpiece….
+ Expertly crafted narrative
+ Lovable characters
+ Solid pacing
+ Playtime as Ellie
+ Plot holes filled